Arts & Entertainment

Carl Reiner's documentary explores life after 90

From left: Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Carl Reiner discuss life at 90 and beyond for Reiner's documentary,
From left: Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Carl Reiner discuss life at 90 and beyond for Reiner's documentary, "If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast," which premieres Monday night on HBO.
Courtesy of HBO

Listen to story

Download this story 2MB

Hollywood tends to place a premium on young, fresh faces, but these days there are plenty of talented stars in town working well into their 90s. That list includes Mel Brooks, Betty White, Dick Van Dyke and Norman Lear.

These nonagenerians and many, many more are profiled in a new HBO documentary, debuting Monday night, called “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”

Front and center in the film is 95-year-old comedy legend Carl Reiner, who created the "Dick Van Dyke Show" and directed such films as “Oh God!” and "The Jerk.” 

Reiner still writes constantly, churning out books for grown-ups and for kids, and he tweets constantly to more than 170,000 followers. In the film, we see him chatting with people 90 and older to show how these years can be some of the most rewarding. The film's title, in fact, comes from an experience he had. He told the story to Alex Cohen recently when she visited his Beverly Hills home:

One morning, I come down, I open the obit and there’s a picture of me in a tuxedo, standing next to Polly Bergen … and I realized that she'd passed away. I’d worked with Polly Bergen a couple of times. And I’m thinking to myself, "My goodness – am I the closest person to Polly Bergen?" It was a good picture of both of us.

On whether he was shocked at all by seeing his own picture in the obituaries:

I was pretty sure I was not dead, because I had to come down a flight of stairs, I was picking out the newspaper – which I do every morning – put my cereal together, and as soon as I sat down and opened the page, I saw that I wasn’t there.

On if creative types seem to live longer lives:

I think having something to do when you get up keeps you living, and people in show business are always in show business … they want to perform, and so they have to keep feeling healthy enough to do it, and if they are healthy, they’ll do it. I mean, Betty White, my God, she’s a little older than I am and I think she’s the perfect example. She must have worked harder than anybody ever worked. She started on television before anybody. She was doing, like, eight shows a week or so.

To hear the rest of the interview with Carl Reiner, please click on the blue play button above. The documentary "If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast" premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on HBO.